The only enduring and effective resolution of disputes is found in international law

(Speech delivered by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. at the 9th East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held in Bangkok, Thailand from on August 2, 2019)

Mr. Chair, excellencies. We cannot emphasize enough the need for concerned states to exercise self-restraint in their activities in the South China Sea. Militarizing disputed areas forecloses what we all claim to believe in: negotiating out of tense and tight situations multilaterally or bilaterally. Militarization hopes to create a fait accompli; a difficult to alter fact or practice in the hope that time will ripen its purpose into right. That will never happen. We all have our claims; none of our governments will survive our countrymen’s reaction to surrendering even an inch of any of those claims. So let’s keep things fluid; and with that the belief grounded in historical experience that the only enduring and effective resolution of disputes is found in international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

On Asean’s Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, we will continue to uphold the principles of openness, inclusiveness, transparency, mutual trust and benefit, and a rules-based framework—and most especially Asean centrality. We remain mostly focused on the South China Sea and the Pacific; and that already strains our attention not to mention our region’s resources. But we keep the Indian Ocean in mind. While we strongly helped and supported the Mauritius initiative on the Chagos archipelago, which met with resounding success in the first round at the UN General Assembly. But we refused to support it in second round out of apprehension about its diluting effect on a strong US naval presence in the Indian Ocean, which is essential to the balance of power where three of the last great powers hold sway: India, China and the United States.

We look forward to the finalization of the draft EAS Statements on Combating the Spread of Illicit Drugs. The only thing that has gotten universal acceptance today is that we should do nothing about the spread of illicit drugs and the threat it poses to viable societies—creating narco-states, on the one hand, and defeated states on the other. Drug-dealing is a recognized mode of effective asymmetric warfare as the Opium Wars showed. Thank you, Mr. Chair, excellencies.


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